When Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, retired tennis pro Alexandr Dolgopolov was in Turkey — but was soon on his way home to his native Ukraine to join the war.
The former world No. 13 retired from the sport last year following a career that took him around the world. But he returned to Ukraine "because it's my home," he told CNN on Friday. "I've seen many sports people, singers, stay here and helping out — so why shouldn't I be here?"
Among the ranks of Ukrainian athletes fighting to defend their country are boxing champions Oleksandr Usyk and Vasiliy Lomachenko, and boxing legends the Klitschko brothers — Wladimir and Kyiv Mayor Vitali.
"There are many normal people staying here — old people, children," Dolgopolov added.
"So I'm here. I'm going to help with what I can. If I need to fight, I'll fight."
While preparing for the trip, Dolgopolov had doubts about whether he was ready to kill or die, he said. But once Russia began targeting civilian infrastructure, "it became the business of every Ukrainian," he said. "You can't just watch how they shoot your people."
That sentiment is strongly felt across Ukraine — which is why Russia is facing such strong resistance, he said. "You must understand that almost every man here is ready to take a weapon and fight. How do you fight such motivated people?"